May 20, 2011

Good Friday. We had a bit of sprinkle overnight and could get more of the same. The leaves are popping out on the birch trees.

Yokel news is nothing much. The grass is growing outside. I’ve been listening to a book about the US Exploration Expedition of 1838-42. Six US Navy vessels traveled from the East Coast south around Cape Horn into the Pacific. They charted scores of islands, explored the coast of Antarctica (and named it that), were attacked by Fiji Islanders and took a cruel revenge, charted the coast from the Columbia River to San Francisco Bay, then sailed back across the Pacific around the Cape of Good Hope to the Atlantic and back to the US. The leader of the group, Charles Wilkes, was a self-taught scientist and a much hated captain. He nearly suffered the fate of the notorious Captain William Bligh. In those days, the captain was the law, and if the captain was petty, rigid, and vindictive, as Wilkes was, he was apt to alienate the officers and men, as Wilkes did. However, Wilkes later made Admiral, so sometimes a bad apple bobs to the top. One long stretch of the Antarctica continent is named Wilkes Land. Pretty good story. The author is Nathaniel Philbrick, who also wrote the National Book Award winner, In the Heart of the Sea, about the sinking of the US whaling ship Essex in 1820 when a Sperm Whale rammed it. This incident was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851).

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